Yeltsin Determined `Choice of My Life,' Putin Says in Preface to New Book

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said he owes the late President Boris Yeltsin for the political path that led him from relative anonymity to Russia’s highest office.

“As his term was coming to an end, I saw my future completely differently,” Putin, 57, wrote in the foreword to a new book about Russia’s first president. “It was the choice of my life. A choice made thanks to Yeltsin.”

Yeltsin selected Putin, then head of the Federal Security Service, as prime minister and endorsed him as his successor 11 years ago this month. Putin, elected president in 2000, made way for his handpicked successor, Dmitry Medvedev, two years ago because of a constitutional ban on three consecutive presidential terms.

Yeltsin’s parting words when he handed over the Kremlin were “take care of Russia,” Putin wrote in the foreword to the new biography by Boris Minayev, extracts of which were published in Moscow-based Ogonyok magazine today. Those words should guide every Russian president, Putin said.

It may take more than a generation to evaluate objectively what Yeltsin did for Russia, Putin wrote. Many Russians remember the politician, who died in 2007, for the economic deprivation and social upheaval following the collapse of communism.

“He never shifted responsibility onto others and took everything on himself openly and even defiantly,” Putin wrote. “Everything he did, he did with passion, giving everything he had.”

Yeltsin, Russia’s first democratically elected leader, disagreed with Putin’s policies toward the end of his life, Mikhail Kasyanov wrote in a book published last year. Kasyanov, Yeltsin’s last finance minister, served as prime minister under Putin before joining the anti-Kremlin opposition.

To contact the reporter on this story: Lucian Kim in Moscow at lkim3@bloomberg.net

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